iZotope's Neutron 2 is a taste of the future when it comes to mixing software, and while we've already covered a few of its basic features here, we're now going to go in deeper and get a more advanced look at some of this package's finer points.
Use individual plugins
The Advanced version of Neutron installs with single versions of the processors used in the main plugin. So alongside Neutron in your plugin folder, you’ll find Neutron 2 Compressor, Equalizer, Exciter, Gate and Transient Shaper. These open with the preset dialog activated, pushing you to a starting point, although you can also use each plugin’s Learn button and play it your audio to arrive at a Track Assistant-like starting point. The EQ identifies other single plugin instances for masking detection, and the Visual Mixer also detects pan and level, so for many uses you don’t need the whole Neutron shebang!
Set up multiband gating
Neutron’s 2 Gate being Multiband makes it a somewhat unique tool — there aren’t many multiband gate plugins out there, but these can be very useful. Aside from using them correctively by cracking down on the frequencies of a signal you don’t want, you can use multiband gates in very creative ways. The classic Trance Gate effect, for example, creates choppy audio out of a full-band signal, so processing different bands independently can lead to even more complex and interesting patterns. Check out the Creative Multiband Gating preset to get started with this futuristic effect.
Get going with dynamic EQ
The EQ can put any band into Dynamic mode. This turns the EQ band into its own compressor or expander with a Threshold control. There are two modes: Up and Down. Up makes the filter (or gain) move upwards when the Threshold is breached, while Down mode reduces gain when the Threshold is exceeded. Logical. Flipping between Down and Up, and moving the band itself above or below the 0dB axis can lead to standard or upward compression, expansion, and downward expansion. It’s hard to grasp, but every instance is triggered by the Threshold being exceeded, wherever the filter starts and moves.
You know double guitars? Well Neutron’s double compressors might at first seem just as excessive. But double up the right way and you can make magic. Serial compression is the technique of splitting compression into two ‘tasks’: peak and general compression. The first stage scalps the spikiest transients from the signal — try Neutron's standard-mode compressor in Peak mode, with a higher Threshold and Ratio, and faster Attack and Release — while the second stage adds character traditionally with a lower Ratio and Threshold, and slower timing. This works great on spiky signals like vocals and guitars.
The Visual Mixer
Neutron’s Visual Mixer plugin is a boon both for creating rough mixes and making little tweaks. This smart plugin can load on any channel, and it accesses every other Neutron or Mix Tap instance, displaying them as pucks on a 2D surface. You can move each puck left or right to change its panning (the actual change is made in the corresponding plugin instance, not in your DAW), and move them up or down to change their levels (in dB relative to the original signal — current level isn’t accounted for by Neutron). You also get to pull out each puck’s handle to change the stereo width. You can also save snapshots of different Visual Mixer settings to A/B compare entire mix strategies from the comfort of a single plugin.
Referencing with Tonal Balance Control
Neutron and Ozone’s plugin helps you get a handle on your overall mix and talks to Neutron’s EQs
01 With a project loaded in your DAW, make sure there’s a Neutron (Or Mix Tap) on each track and load the Tonal Balance Control over the master channel.
02 We have four ranges. The white lines represent our audio signal, and the blue ranges signify target levels in dB for that area of the frequency spectrum. The idea is to get the white lines in the blue ranges, thus making the mix comparable to commercial ‘tonal balance’ standards.
03 There are three targets to choose from: Modern, Bass-Heavy and Orchestral. You can also change the spectrum readout to Fine instead of Broad, letting you work with the whole frequency spectrum rather than four generalized bands.
04 In Tonal Balance Control, select an EQ from any instance of Neutron that’s working, and you can alter its controls while viewing the overall tonal balance. In the image below, we add a dynamic band on the kick, and reduce low-frequency energy from the bass and snare to bring the overall tonal balance more into range.
05 At the top, we can select a file to analyze and use as a reference. You might be surprised at the frequency content of these tracks as compared to TBC’s own averages, and this is a good example of how real-world tracks don’t necessarily conform to 'ideal' standards.